Smoke grounds East Tennessee medical helicopters

Lifestar helicopter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Lifestar’s medical helicopters have been grounded several times since Friday due to smoke and poor visibility in East Tennessee, causing them to miss about 25 requests for transport.

In order for Lifestar to be able to safely transport patients, they need three miles of visibility. That level wasn’t reached on several days in the past week. Director Phyllis Walker says she doesn’t remember smoke affecting Lifestar’s ability to fly in her entire 25 years with the organization.

“Just a slight breeze one way or the other depending on where we’re picking the patient up and where we’re going to, it can make all the difference and it changes very quickly,” said Walker.

Walker says they sometimes take the condition of the patient into account when deciding whether to fly in these types of conditions, but their first priority is making sure the flight is safe for the patient and the flight crew.

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